[The following correspondence began on April 26, 2011. The Lord willing, I will be slightly editing things like spelling or grammatical errors on my part.]
Marc Carpenter is the editor of the Outside the Camp newsletter (thus, I put him on the “Cc” line). The Outside the Camp web site is the web version of a newsletter put out by Sovereign Redeemer Assembly. Since I am a member of Sovereign Redeemer Assembly, and have contributed a few articles to the site, I would be happy to answer your questions. You wrote:
Hello. My name is Josh R. I have learned a lot since reading the Outside the Camp website. I do believe in the efficacious atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, that he truly did purchase the church with his blood. I thank you for all of your work in the Lord Jesus. I have a few questions for you. I can see the scriptural support for many of the doctrines declared at Outside the Camp, like effective atonement, God’s hatred of the reprobate, etc. I also understand that God does predestine things to occur. However, while not rejecting the doctrine, mind you, I do wonder if perhaps I am missing something when it comes to absolute predestination. To say that God predestines the things that the Scripture says he does is understandable with me, and I say Amen to that. But I cannot find any verse that was given which unequivocally says that God predestines every single event that has ever happened or will ever happen. Even a verse like Ephesians 1:11 does not make it explicitly obvious.
Please let me know if I’m understanding you correctly. You do not oppose the doctrine of absolute predestination, but you do not believe that the Bible explicitly teaches it. Is that correct? If so, then you are saying that a verse like Ephesians 1:11, does not explicitly teach that “God predestines every single event that has ever happened, or will ever happen.” Let’s take a look at Ephesians 1:11 with context:
“Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies with Christ, even as He elected us in Him before the foundation of the world, for us to be holy and without blemish before Him in love, predestinating us to adoption through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace in which He favored us in the One having been loved, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the remission of deviations, according to the riches of His grace which He caused to abound toward us in all wisdom and understanding, making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, for the administration of the fullness of the times to head up all things in Christ, both the things in the heavens, and the things on earth, in Him, in whom we also have been chosen to an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of the One working all things according to the counsel of His own will” (Ephesians 1:3-11).
If Ephesians 1:11 is not explicitly obvious in its teaching that God predestines and works all things according to the counsel of His own will, then God could be thwarted in the good pleasure of His will to adopt His elect people to Himself through Jesus Christ. For one “single event” or person, might nullify God’s good pleasure to work out those things in time, which He has predestined from eternity.
From Romans 8:28-39, and a verse like Ephesians 1:11, it is clear, explicit, and obvious, that “God predestines every single event that has ever happened or will ever happen.” For how would it be possible for all things to be worked together for good on behalf of those loving God? The gospel is God’s promise to save His people conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone (Matthew 1:21; 2 Corinthians 1:19-20).
“For Jesus Christ the Son of God, the One proclaimed among you by us, through me and Silvanus and Timothy, did not become Yes and No, but has been Yes in Him. For as many promises as are of God, in Him they are yes, and in Him are Amen, for glory to God through us” (2 Corinthians 1:19-20).
Those who believe the gospel, believe that God “predestines every single event that has ever happened or will ever happen,” and is thus able and faithful to keep all His promises. If you do not believe that God is absolutely sovereign, then you do not believe that His promises are sure and certain. If you do not believe that His promises are sure and certain, then you do not believe the gospel.
As with John 3:16 and other verses, meanings depend on contexts. I would be glad to receive some more things to ponder concerning absolute predestination.
Yes. Obviously, meanings depend on contexts. The context of John 3:16 is that God’s love for the world is demonstrated in the believing ones not perishing, but having everlasting life. Here are some links relevant to God’s love shown in the atonement of Jesus Christ:
And some links pertaining to absolute predestination:
And of course, the CCF:
3. God absolutely controls all actions and events; nothing at all happens by chance or merely by His permission. All actions and events happen because of His sovereign decree, including the sins of men and angels. Contrary to the aspersions of the enemies of God, this doctrine does not attribute sin to God; instead, it provides great comfort for believers. [Gen 50:20; Exo 4:21; 7:3; 9:12; Deu 2:30; 32:39; Jos 11:20; 1Sa 2:6-8,25; 2Sa 17:14; 2Ch 10:15; 11:4; 25:20; 36:22; Job 12:14-25; 23:13-14; 26:7-12; Psa 105:25; 115:3; 135:5-7; Pro16:4,33; 21:1; Isa 40:23-26; 42:9; 43:13; 45:6-7; 46:9-11; Jer 18:6; 52:3; Eze 17:24; Hab 1:6,12; Joh 19:11; Act 2:23; 4:27-28; Eph 1:11; Rev 17:17]
4. Because God sovereignly orders all things, He is able to keep all His promises. Because God is the God of truth, He is faithful to keep all His promises. [Deu 7:8-10; Jos 21:44-45; 23:14; 2Sa 23:3-5; Psa 89:24-37; 132:11; Isa 45:23; 46:9-11; 54:9-10; Jer 33:20-21,25-26; Act 13:32-33; Rom 15:8-9; 2Co 1:19-20; 1Th 5:24; Tit 1:1-3; Heb 6:13-20; 2Pe 3:9-13]
I do wonder about the Christian Confession of Faith on Outside the Camp. I’m not sure how every single one of those doctrines can be said to be automatically believed by the elect. Certainly, I do not oppose any of them.
Please note the phrase in the preface to the CCF, “opposes any of the doctrines.” There are SOME doctrines in the Christian Confession of Faith, that every Christian will believe immediately upon regeneration (2 Corinthians 4:3-6). There are SOME OTHER doctrines in the Christian Confession of Faith, that a Christian may have never thought about, but would *never oppose.*
I downright agree completely with many of them. But I would like a response on that subject. Efficacious atonement, the deity of Christ, his resurrection- these I can see the necessity of from the Scriptures. I would like to receive some reason as to WHY it is that your group believes that it is necessary to believe in absolute predestination, or that the Bible has been preserved completely through every age, etc., in order to be counted as a Christian. I have never seen any verse of Scripture to my knowledge that either directly or indirectly addresses these things as necessary fruits of regeneration. Please use Scripture in your response, and something that is not murky, but give a reason that clearly shows your position, please.
You, “downright agree completely with many of them.” Many? But not all? Which ones do you disagree with? To disagree with a doctrine in the CCF, is to oppose a doctrine in the CCF. The necessity of belief in absolute predestination was already given briefly above (the links go into greater detail), but I’ll repeat what I had said again, here:
“If you do not believe that God is absolutely sovereign, then you do not believe that His promises are sure and certain. If you do not believe that His promises are sure and certain, you do not believe the gospel.”
As for the necessity of believing that the “Bible has been preserved completely through every age.” Really? Are you serious? If the Bible has NOT been “preserved completely through every age,” then it CANNOT be said with certainty, that essential gospel doctrines such as Efficacious atonement, the deity of Christ, his resurrection, have been preserved. The gospel of Jesus Christ stands or falls, with the preservation of the Scriptures.
Those who do not believe that God has preserved His Word unblemished through every age, cannot be sure that God has actually witnessed concerning His Son, thus making Him a liar (1 John 5:10).
If one is uncertain regarding the providential preservation of the Bible, then one is uncertain of whether the gospel has been preserved. Uncertainty regarding the gospel is unbelief, and those in unbelief are lost (cf. Mark 16:16; Romans 1:16-17).